What Are Bespoke Shoes?
Paolo Scafora Bespoke Shoe Work Bench
The most elite category of shoe-making, people are typically thinking about bespoke when they refer to custom shoes. However, if you’ve read our guides linked above, you’ll have learned that despite every effort, a made-to-order or made-to-measure shoe will never match a bespoke shoe.
As the name suggests, bespoke shoes are entirely tailored to the wearer’s feet using the utmost precision. Therefore, only the most skilled and expert craftsmen are able to undertake such a feat in workmanship.
Ordering bespoke shoes isn’t a simple process and certainly not one that can be completed online like some made-to-order footwear. While we often talk about our favourite online made-to-measure suit makers, bespoke shoes and suits are entirely different beasts.
When looking to purchase bespoke shoes, it’s recommended that you first make an appointment to your shoemaker of choice. Given that the measurement process can be quite long, some shoemakers prefer appointments as it guarantees you the necessary undivided attention.
Traditionally, bespoke shoemakers will take your measurements by hand as well as drawing outlines of your feet on paper. You’ll then likely have an in-depth discussion on how you like to wear your shoes in terms of tightness.
Once this has been established, the shoemaker will proceed with crafting unique lasts for each shoes.
What Are Lasts?
Stefano Bemer Wooden Last
A last is basically a mould over which shoes are essentially sculpted when they are made. Even ready-to-wear shoe brands have lasts, which are shaped to their different standard sizes. Occasionally, there are different styles of last, which dictate the aesthetics of the shape too.
In bespoke shoe-making, the lasts are instead wooden moulds that are precisely shaped like the client’s feet based on the client’s measurements.
While traditional shoemakers will hand-carve the lasts from blocks of wood using paper measurements, some modern companies will occasionally create plastic ones based on 3D-scans.
Aside from Paolo Scafora above, every shoemaker we’ve listed here only crafts wooden lasts themselves. The process is particularly time-consuming and can take months to achieve.
However, before the ordered shoes are crafted, the lasts will be trialled first to see whether they’re accurate.
Fittings For Bespoke Shoes
Once the lasts have been completed, a pair of test shoes will be manufactured for a fitting session with the client. This is undertaken to ensure that the lasts accurately represent the client’s feet and are free of any faults.
As a result, the trial shoes are often made from second-grade leather and may not include any of the desired customisation options. After all, the test shoes are made only to trial the lasts’ accuracy. If there are any fitting issues, they’ll likely be drawn on and cut open to identify the problem.
However, there are exceptions. Indeed, Antonio Meccariello’s luxury bespoke service will instead use this opportunity to manufacture perfectly wearable shoes from their most affordable range. Therefore, if the fit is perfect, the client has the opportunity to own an extra pair of shoes!
Becoming A Bespoke Shoe Client
Hiro Yanagimachi Brogue Shoes
Should there be any issues with the trial shoes, the shoemaker will go back and either modify or rebuild the last. While this is indeed rare at this level of craftsmanship, it can sometimes happen.
Since the shoemaker is seeking providing the client with perfection, they will likely reconvene after another pair of trial shoes have been made.
After the fitting has been approved by the client, the shoemaker will proceed with the final pair. As bespoke shoes are usually handmade, this may take a couple more months before they’re ready.
Furthermore, it’s also vital that the fitting for the first pair of shoes is taken seriously as the shoemaker will keep the lasts in their workshop. This will allow the client to easily order future pairs without having to repeat the process.
In fact, many repeat bespoke customers enjoy the convenience of being able to order their future shoes by telephone or email.
How Much Bespoke Shoes Cost?
Gaziano Girling Shoemaker
As you may have noticed above, bespoke shoes are an investment to say the least! That said, bear in mind that a first order of bespoke shoes is usually more expensive than future purchases.
Given that lasts need to be made for first-time customers, the time-consuming procedure is included in the price. As these are kept by the shoemaker, the process won’t be repeated so the cost is reduced.
Typically, traditional handmade bespoke shoes should cost somewhere from $4,000 and $5,000.
George Cleverley Churchill
Truly exceptional bespoke shoemakers such as Gaziano Girling may sometimes charge more. The reasons for this vary but it can be due to their own base construction techniques, selection of materials, or even simply their reputation and demand.
Meanwhile, you may have noticed above that Italian bespoke shoes tend to be more accessible than their British or French counterparts. For instance, even Antonio Meccariello’s luxury bespoke service starts at only $3,000.
Indeed, the Italians do have a reputation for making more affordable bespoke shoes. However, this doesn’t at all suggest that the quality is inferior.
Finally, remember that all the prices listed above represent the starting prices for bespoke shoes. While even the construction, craftsmanship, and materials used to make bespoke shoes are generally superior to ready-to-wear footwear, there are still price brackets once you enter bespoke territory.
As a result, the prices will naturally increase if you ask for different types of customisation, rarer leathers, and complex stitching techniques.
Why Are Bespoke Shoes So Expensive?
Traditionally, fully bespoke shoes are entirely hand-made without the use of any machinery to facilitate the process. Consequently, the typical shoe construction techniques that are most familiar aren’t used here.
For instance, Goodyear welts are achieved using a machine. If a similar construction is desired, the shoe will be hand-welted instead, which is an even more labour-intensive and time-consuming process.
Not only is the manufacturing process extremely complex but bespoke shoemakers will only use leathers and materials to match the level of their craftsmanship. Therefore, even the most affordable leathers included in the price for bespoke shoes tend to be of impeccable quality.
While the client can customise and request different leathers, it’ll only be for other skins of equal or superior quality.
On average, a bespoke shoe represents at least 60 hours of work to produce from start to finish. And this doesn’t even include the last! Therefore, it’s no surprise that a client has to wait several months to receive the shoes.
Why Buy Bespoke Shoes?
Aubercy Bespoke Shoes
As we’ve highlighted above, bespoke shoes are the elite of custom shoes. Given the level of service, craftsmanship, fit, and sheer customisation that it offers, there is no equal or substitute.
However, you are now probably aware that it is also very expensive and justifiably so. Consequently, why should someone invest in bespoke shoes?
Firstly, there is the question of necessity. Some people truly struggle to find shoes that fit them at all. Whether its due to foot conditions, abnormalities, or simply having an awkward foot size, ready-to-wear shoes are simply not suitable.
As such, bespoke isn’t just a luxury but absolutely essential for the wearer. While made-to-measure shoes could be sufficient in some cases, it may not offer the level of customisation necessary to provide sufficient comfort.
Therefore, you may need to have dedicated lasts created of your feet in order to have shoes that provide a safe and comfortable fit.
Alternatively, you might want to invest in bespoke shoes simply for your own gratification. After all, it is the apex of luxury shoe-making and if you have the means, why not experience it for yourself?
As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy shoes that are made just for you both in their fit but also their design and leather. Wearing bespoke shoes is as delightful as they say and a veritable pleasure with every step.
Now that you have read about the best bespoke shoe brands and what they offer, feel free to explore our other related guides: